From glass-bottom villas in the Maldives to sprawling properties in Fiji.
When it comes to island getaways, nothing takes things up a notch like an overwater bungalow. Secluded, romantic, and endlessly luxurious, they’ve become a staple of resorts dotting the Maldives, Bora Bora, and Fiji. And given their reliance on the ocean that surrounds them, it’s no surprise that a new wave of eco-friendly properties have cropped up, all built with sustainability in mind. Read on for some of the spectacular overwater bungalows around the world, and get ready for pangs of extreme wanderlust.
Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, French Polynesia
Often overshadowed by big sister Bora Bora, Moorea, an island in French Polynesia, also impresses with its clear waters and mountainous backdrops. Set on Moorea’s northern shores, Hilton’s overwater bungalows let you jump right from your balcony into the ocean. In general, these properties on Moorea are at a significantly lower price point than hotels in Bora Bora and the Maldives, and this one is bookable with Hilton Honors points. (Pro tip: Get the new Hilton Honors AmEx Aspire card and you could score a free trip to French Polynesia.)
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Built along a small islet, or motu, the overwater bungalows at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora rise over the island’s turquoise waters, doling out views of the colossal Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia. Interiors are understated, inspired by the natural style of a traditional Polynesian village, and all have indoor-outdoor spaces with ladders for access to the lagoon. Choose from one of three views: beach, lagoon, or, our favorite, mountain.
Six Senses Laamu, the Maldives
Sustainability lies at the core of the sole, luxurious resort in the Maldives’ secluded Laamu Atoll. (The triple-tiered overwater villas are constructed of local materials, which brings money to nearby island communities.) Take a guided snorkeling tour with one of the on-island marine biologists, who work tirelessly to rehabilitate and protect the resort’s house reef and surrounding fragile coral reefs, and follow it up with a meal made from produce grown in the island’s organic gardens and freshly caught seafood from local fishermen. Finally, treat yourself to one of the many treatments at the Six Senses Spa overlooking the ocean.
Niyama Private Islands Maldives, the Maldives
We love Niyama’s understated overwater bungalows, each with a partial open-air shower, private pool, and deck with stairs leading directly into the lagoon below. But what we love even more is that there’s so much to do on both land and water around these twin islands, including world-class surfing, kneeboarding, windsurfing, kites-urfing, jet-skiing, cycling, and yoga. Niyama has tapped into the family market, too, dedicating a significant swathe of the island to fun in the sun for little ones. No wonder the resort consistently ranks near the top in our annual Readers’ Choice Awards.
Bawah Reserve, Indonesia
There are far-flung, extravagant private islands, and then there’s Bawah, which resides in a league of its own. This Indonesian paradise comprises six islands, three blue lagoons, and 13 unspoiled white beaches in the heart of the remote Anambas Archipelago (reached only by seaplane). Take in the natural splendor from the comfort of a dreamy, rustic-chic overwater bungalow—the balconies have staircases leading down to the marine life-rich shallows. Come here for spectacular sunsets, dinners in the treetops, hikes through the Indonesian jungle, and island-hopping via transparent kayaks.
Laucala Island, Fiji
You can live out the ultimate Fiji private island experience in any of Laucala Island’s 25 glamorous thatch-roofed bures (pronounced boo-rays), but there’s something extra special about the Overwater Villa—a 3,000-square-foot, split-level property, where the ocean is visible from just about everywhere and a private pool is carved into the surrounding natural rocks. In addition, the island claims the highest guest-to-staff ratio of any resort in the world (16 staff for each villa), so expect the best-of-the-best in private island pampering.
Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, the Maldives
This Maldives resort is exactly what overwater dreams are made of. Kihavah is located off a beautiful sandy island in the Baa Atoll, which has been officially designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its stunning coral reefs and prolific marine life. The thatched-roof bungalows are filled with over-the-top amenities like glass-bottom bathtubs, swinging day beds, and overwater hammocks. Sure, you may never want to leave your villa, but the resort’s overwater spa, astronomy-themed rooftop bar (with the Indian Ocean’s largest telescope), and underwater restaurant are impossible to resist.
Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia
On Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago, some 15 miles south of the mainland city of Sihanoukville, this private island resort is home to nine overwater bungalows (and 18 island villas) that are glamorous yet unfussy. Perfect the art of doing nothing from your private swimming pool overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. If you’re feeling ambitious, cross the footbridge to neighboring island Koh Bong, where you can hike nature trails and spot birds and other wildlife (look out for the oriental pied hornbill).
Brando Suites Bora Bora at the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa, French Polynesia
Beachfront retreat The Brando has everything one could want out of an ultra-luxury South Pacific retreat—everything except an actual overwater bungalow, that is. To make up for this shortcoming, the hotel introduced four overwater Brando Suites at its partner, the InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa. Each suite mimics the sleek design of The Brando’s own villas (local miki miki wood floors and walls, pandan leaf roofing) while housing the largest overwater pools in French Polynesia. Can’t decide where you want to stay? Special packages allow guests to split time between the two properties.